What does this stanza from the poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou mean?

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Maya Angelou has lived through many difficult circumstances in her life.  She studied and worked and rose above these detrimental events.   The details of the poem “Still I Rise”  sadden the reader; however, the message brings wisdom and hope to the those who still feel the weight of discrimination. This is Angelou's anthem for the black race.

The verse to which the question refers is the last stanza of the poem.  Obviously, one of the poet’s tools in the poem is the repetition of the short phrase “I rise.” This is the theme of the poem.  No matter what is handed to [She is speaking to the black people] the black person he will stand up and try again.

Look at the individual examples the poet uses:

Out of the huts…

This refers to the slave housing on the plantations in the south before the American Civil War.  The slaves were given little to survive on and slept in huts that could barely be called places to live.  In history, this is a shameful way to have treated these people who worked to make the lives of the white southerners pleasant.

Up from a past…

The black people have faced many difficult experiences in the last two centuries. From beatings, to bombings, to hangings, to the Ku Klux Klan---the pain for the Negro has been unspeakable. Obviously, there has been great progress.

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide.

The ocean encompasses a great deal of the world.  The black people were forced to cross the ocean from Africa to America only to serve as slaves and to be treated like animals.  Fortunately, the ocean never rests.  It constantly moves leaping and moving according to the tides. 

The black people have not rested.  They, too, have survived despite the cruelty of their treatment.  Leaving behind the days of slavery, Angelou speaks to the shame of slavery but also the indestructible spirit of the African American people who have risen and stand alongside their white brothers. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team